True Grit

Directed By: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Bruce Green, and Dakin Matthews

The Western genre is an endangered species that hardly graces the big screen any more.  In the last twenty years or so, Western films have become rarer and rarer.  I can probably count the number of good Westerns released over the last couple of decades on one hand.  It's not every day anymore that you get good old fashioned flicks like Unforgiven, Appaloosa, or 3:10 to Yuma.  The most recent Western to hit theaters was True Grit, a remake of the 1969 classic starring John Wayne.

After the vicious murder of her father by the ruthless Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is out for justice by any means necessary.  To capture him, she has to go out into the Indian Nations and face untold dangers.  She can't do this alone though, so she hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to accompany her and capture Chaney.  Cogburn, a mean killing machine, is a man with "true grit".  Ross is not the only one who wants Chaney though.  Under a different alias, Chaney murdered a Texas senator, and the late politician’s family wants justice.  Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is seeking the reprobate for this killing.  LaBoeuf joins Ross and Cogburn on their dangerous journey into the wild to catch this wanted killer.

The original True Grit is an all-time classic.  John Wayne's Oscar-winning performance is the stuff of legend.  That kind of movie magic simply can't be replicated, especially at a time when the Western is nearly extinct.  When I heard that Joel and Ethan Coen were tackling a remake of this great film, I was a little weary.  When I heard that Steven Spielberg was producing the project, I became a bit more interested.  When I heard that the cast would include the likes of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, I knew they were throwing the kitchen sink at this remake and that we potentially had a great Western on our hands.

This stellar cast and crew certainly did not let me down.  True Grit is a powerful but fun film that takes us back to the simple pleasures of the old days.  As usual the Coen Brothers bring their A-game.  The old school cinematography, the gritty heart-racing shootouts, and the rich storytelling all illustrate that we're watching masters at their craft show the world how it's done.

While there was no way in hell that Jeff Bridges was going to outdo the iconic performance by John Wayne, Bridges shows moviegoers why he is one of the most revered actors of his generation.  His performance as the one-eyed drunk hero Rooster Cogburn stole the show.  It draws so many reactions from viewers throughout the film.  One moment, you think he's a drunk jackass. The next, he's the great white hope of the film. He also delivers quite a few laughs during the movie.

Matt Damon and Josh Brolin also do some fine acting in True Grit.  As Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, a man who takes no crap from anybody, especially the 14 year-old Mattie Ross, Matt Damon is absolutely hilarious.  Eternal bad guy Josh Brolin reunites with his No Country For Old Men directors to give another great performance.  Brolin was born to play villains on the big screen and brings his absolute best to the set for True Grit.

Though the Western is a nearly extinct genre, films like True Grit show us that there are still some great stories to be told (or retold) on the big screen about cowboys and crooks.  For great filmmaking, great acting, and great storytelling, True Grit gets a sober rating.